Bakhtin, Stalin, and Modern Russian Fiction: Carnival, Dialogism, and History

Bakhtin, Stalin, and Modern Russian Fiction: Carnival, Dialogism, and History

Bakhtin, Stalin, and Modern Russian Fiction: Carnival, Dialogism, and History

Bakhtin, Stalin, and Modern Russian Fiction: Carnival, Dialogism, and History

Synopsis

Bakhtin, Stalin, and Modern Russian Fiction presents an advanced introduction to the work of the Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin, focusing on the concepts of carnival, dialogism, and historicism. The discussion of Bakhtin pays particular attention to the impact of his historical context in the Soviet Union and to the importance of his own dialogic mode of discourse. Bakhtin's ideas are then placed in dialogic relation to the works of several important writers of modern Russian fiction, including Vassily Aksyonov, Ilf and Petrov, Mikhail Zoshchenko, Yuz Aleshkovsky, Andrei Bitov, and Sasha Sokolov.

Excerpt

One of the chapters of Andrei Sinyavsky autobiographical novel Goodnight! (1984) centers around the appearance of the ghost of the recently deceased Stalin to a clairvoyant, the implication apparently being that Stalin's ghost was still stalking Russia at least as late as the publication of Sinyavsky's book. Indeed, if there is a specter haunting modern Russian fiction, it is the specter of Stalinism. In the quarter of a century during which Stalin ruled the Soviet Union with his iron hand, his government exerted a powerful and direct control over the production of art and literature in the Soviet state. Not only were the works of artists and writers strictly monitored for ideological consistency with the official Party line, but a highly formulaic socialist realism became during this time the only officially sanctioned artistic mode. This development had especially powerful consequences given the radical contrast between the tenets of socialist realism and the artistic practices of the great nineteenth-century predecessors of twentieth-century Soviet writers. As a result, from about 1929, the formal experimentation, biting satire, and fantastic imagery generally associated with the works of writers like Pushkin, Gogol, and Dostoevsky--and with much postrevolutionary literature of the 1920s--virtually disappeared from Soviet literature. This situation began to ease to a certain extent after Stalin's death in 1953, but Sinyavsky's 1965 arrest and incarceration--simply for the nature of his writing--served as a grim reminder to Russian writers of the mid- 1960s that the dark days of Stalinist censorship were far from being swept away by the famous "thaw." Meanwhile, Stalin's impact on . . .

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